my travails as a self-proclaimed kid environmentalist: an essay

My thirteen-year-old niece recently started her own (private) blog and agreed to let me repost one of her essays. Enjoy!


When I read about Greta Thunberg, her family, and their activism for the environment, my eyes welled up, the words blurred by my sadness and anger. I did not finish that book. My parents and I decided that I should stay away from such dramatic stories to preserve my sanity.

Instead, I started learning more about ways to counter this problem that has been passed down the generations. At the library, I raided the sections on climate change, plastic pollution, and low-waste living. I shared resources with my friends. I sewed cloth napkins and wrote to officials. I was using every reasonable* tool in my inadequate, kid-sized tool belt.

I have gotten stronger, mentally and emotionally. I have come to terms with the disrespect and harm coming to our tossing sphere. I no longer cry myself to sleep with a drowning feeling of helplessness. I find ways to help instead of sitting in a puddle of my own tears. I think I’ll read the rest of that Greta book.

The rain outside my window is the aftermath of hurricane Ida. The garden is only now getting the moisture it needs, after the miserly corn harvest. The stalks stand in their dead rows in the field, a sight becoming more common over years of abuse to the Earth we depend on whether we like it or not.

I am outraged every time I see food in styrofoam and plastic on the roadside–basically all the time. I feel like nobody cares. When I hear about plastic bag bans or a pipeline blocked, I am temporarily consoled. But the fear and anger sneak back in. They still sometimes overwhelm me. I must learn to harness this grief and negative energy and bring my voice to the world.

*Some examples of – as deemed by my parents and the overall society –“unreasonable” tools: never driving, not buying any dairy or meat whatsoever, only making our own clothing out of only organic cotton, not buying anything in plastic, etc.


photo credits: my niece

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (10.14.19), a weekend away, soiree!, peanut butter fudge, a list, three vignettes: my husband, why it ain’t happening, puzzling it out.


  • Sarah DB

    Thank you for this post, niece of Jennifer. Your napkins are beautiful! Here are a few things we do that have been deemed as “reasonable” by our family:
    – Buy almost all of our clothing at thrift stores. (Sometimes someone needs boots or underwear that we can’t find secondhand.)
    – Buy clothing made only of natural materials so we’re not washing microplastics into the watershed.
    – Cut up worn out cotton knit shirts and use them instead of buying tissues. They wash just fine, or if they’re really gross, compost.
    – Use fabric or thrift store tins instead of wrapping paper.
    – Shop at farmers’ markets or other stores where I can bring my own bags.
    – Sometimes we do “challenge months” where we choose a further step we’d like to try: driving as little as possible; buying no plastic; using as little water as we can; etc. It’s easier to do those things that seem “unreasonable” if it’s for a limited time, and often you find afterward that there are habits that you actually can continue long-term.

    I’m very glad to know that you care deeply about the earth and our future and are using that energy to do good in the world. You are making a difference by inspiring others through your writing and actions. Thank you again.

  • Becky

    I hate seeing the styrofoam and plastic bags out there too. Push through and figure out how to harness that energy and enthusiasm for the change we need!

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